The Parish of Sandal Magna

"Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life"


The writer of this proverb (Proverbs 4:23) does not mean take an aspirin a day, an apple a day, or some exercise each day to keep your heart fit. It is not physical fitness he is referring to. We spend a lot of time attending to the needs of our bodies, and protecting them from harm. But do we spend enough time protecting our hearts? The heart is the symbolic place of emotion and love, the place where we experience a relationship with God who is love.

What goes into the heart often through the mind can either generate love and generosity, or cause us to become bitter and despondent. Jesus knew this dynamic when he confronted the Pharisees on their emphasis on outward observance of the law.

Jesus said, 'After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 'Are you so dull?' he asked. 'Don't you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn't go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body. What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person's heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.'' Mark 7:18-23.

That's tough talking, but true. We may not go as far as murder, but who hasn’t envied someone or said something unkind, or been proud or foolish?

What is the antidote to such pollution? Guarding our hearts; making sure that we are nourished spiritually by good not bad. That may mean a change of spiritual diet; a lot less bad news and a lot more good news. Think about all the things we expose our minds and hearts to during a typical day. Is it time to change our way of thinking, our mindset? That's what the word repentance means, to recognise that we have sinned, to change our mindset and to ask God to help us to reconfigure our lives so that they please Him rather than ourselves or others. We can then be more ready to listen to the still, small voice of God’s spirit, rather than the loud, insistent voices of controversy and discord. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan monk, wrote in his book 'Hope against Darkness', that the only voices we hear today are the voices of politics and the media. Is that all there is to hear? What about the voices of the powerless, the humble, the meek, the wise, the kind, the hurting, the poet, the artist, the activist, the prophet, the pastor, the teacher, the mentor, the coach. I'm sure we do hear some of these voices, and perhaps we are some of these people, but do we listen to them enough, to counterbalance the strident voices that besiege our ears every day?

Rather than setting ourselves new year resolutions that we may not keep, perhaps we can change our mindset and rethink what we take into our minds and hearts, and resolve to put some protection around us, so that the harsh voices are filtered out and the gentle, kind, compassionate and spiritual voices are allowed more room to breathe and flourish within us? Perhaps this year we will allow more of God's love, the truth of Jesus and his spirit to permeate our hearts and lives.

Then what comes out of our hearts and through our lips will be full of goodness and truth, joy and peace, which will bless, restore and heal others, as well as ourselves.
I leave you with some words of Jean Vanier, founder of the l'Arche movement, sharing life together with people with learning difficulties.

"To love someone is not first of all to do things for them, but to reveal to them their beauty and value; to say to them through our attitude; ‘You are beautiful. You are important. I trust you. You can trust yourself.'"

Rupert




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